Short Book Reviews: M. John Harrison’s A Storm of Wings (1980), Algis Budrys’ Some Will Not Die (1961, rev. 1978), and William Greenleaf’s The Tartarus Incident (1983)

James Gurney’s cover art detail for the 1st edition of William Greanleef’s The Tartarus Incident (1983)

Note: My read but “waiting to be reviewed pile” is growing. Short rumination/tangents are a way to get through the stack. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.

1. A Storm of Wings, M. John Harrison (1980)

Michael Whelan’s cover for the 1982 edition

4.5/5 (Very Good)

A Storm of Wings (1980) is the second volume, after The Pastel City (1971), of the Viriconium sequence. Far more dense and oblique than its predecessor, A Storm of Wings revels in the creation of a surreal urban tapestry–redolent with decay and decadent excess. Two Reborn Men (Fay Glass and Alstath Fulthor) attempt to animate the somnolent city of Viriconium Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLII (C. J. Cherryh and T. A. Waters)

All the following books came from the Chicago, IL bookstore Bucket O’Blood. I bought them online to support one of my favorite bookstores negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Check them out!  If able, support your favorite stores (buy online, buy gift cards for later purchases, etc.) in this trying time.

I hope all of you are well.

1. Book two of C. J. Cherryh’s Faded Sun trilogy. I bought the first one a few months ago.

While I’ve only reviewed two of Cherryh’s novels on my site—-Merchanter’s Luck (1982) and Port Eternity (1982)—she was one of my favorite pre-blog authors. I’ve previously read fifteen or so of her novels including Cyteen (1988) and Downbellow Station (1981). I have yet to read any of her pre-1980 novels so I look forward to diving into this trilogy.

2. An unknown author and novel (at least to me)…. with a flashy/fun cover. According to SF Encyclopedia, “A counter-cultural ethos also inspired the grimmer Centerforce (1974), in which motorcycle dropouts and commune dwellers combine in opposition to a Near-Future police-state America.”

3. One of C. J. Cherryh’s few standalone novels–Hestia (1979). Seems like a standard anthropological mystery on an alien world. Thoughts? As always, annoyed by the cat woman alien art….

4. Book three of C. J. Cherryh’s Faded Sun trilogy.

Let me know what you think of the books and covers in the comments!


1. The Faded Sun: Shon’Jir, C. J. Cherryh (1978)

(Gino D’Achille’s cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXV (Haldeman + Lerman + Vonarburg + Slonczewski)

An acquisition post of entirely 80s novels? Joachim Boaz, you must be kidding!

1. SF in translation from Quebec! My edition is banged up so I included an image for the 1st English language edition instead. Rachel S. Cordasco sings the sequel’s praises here.

2. I recently finished Joe Haldeman’s Mindbridge (1976), and, despite its rather canned plot, I adored his “way of telling” (use of memos, citations from invented essays, desk ephemera, etc.) I’ll post a review soon. As a result, I purchased another Haldeman novel missing from my collection–his take on near future SF.

3. I have yet to read any of Joan Slonczewski’s novels. This appears to be her best known one… Her first novel, Still Forms on Foxfield (1980) will also be joining the Joachim Boaz SF Library momentarily.

4. Rhoda Lerman’s SF(ish?) novel seems like a fascinating slipstream experiment in medievalism. I’m not sure what to make of the back cover. As always, I am up for a radical experiment.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Enjoyed? Hated?


1. The Silent City, Élisabeth Vonarburg (1981, trans. by Jane Brierley)

(Ken Campbell’s cover for the 1988 edition) Continue reading

Short Book Reviews: Lloyd Biggle, Jr.’s The World Menders (1971), Pamela Sargent’s The Sudden Star (variant title: The White Death) (1979), Josef Nesvadba’s In the Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman (variant title: The Lost Face)(1964, trans. 1970)

Note: My “to review” pile is growing. Short reviews are a way to get through the stack. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.

But first…. three completely different volumes.

1.  The  World  Menders, Lloyd Biggle, Jr. (1971)

(David Bergen’s cover for the 1975 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

Despite the idiotic moments in Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), as a kid I adored the first sequence–the undercover team observing the Ba’Ku community from a hidden observation station (before Data’s malfunction). Of course, Star Fleet assumed the Ba’Ku were pre-warp drive (and thus first contact shouldn’t be initiated). The mechanics of going undercover to initiate or prepare a society for contact is a fascinating and endlessly replayable SF premise. Continue reading

Book Review: Under a Calculating Star, John Morressy (1975)

(Paul Alexander’s cover for the 1978 edition)

3/5 (Average)

After finishing John Morressy’s Frostworld and Dreamfire (1977), I tracked down another volume of his Del Whitby sequence. Although far from as engaging and emotionally affective as the former, Under a Calculating Star (1975) provides the historical background to the Morressy’s weirdly primitive far future world: the origins of the Sternverein (the dominant business polity), the explanation of why swords and knives are the weapons of choice while high-tech spaceships roam the interstellar expanses, and the role of Old Earth in the colonization of the far flung reaches. Historical content aside, Under a Calculating Star‘s plot and characters fail to engage and the worlds and societies are one-dimensional in comparison to Frostworld and Dreamfire‘s metamorphic Onhla and the planet Hraggellon, locked in its unusual orbit. Continue reading

Book Review: Frostworld and Dreamfire, John Morressy (1977)

(David Wilhelmsen’s cover for the 1977 edition)

4.25/5 (Very Good)

John Morressy’s moving SF epic Frostworld and Dreamfire (1977) is set in the Del Whitby sequence (1972-1983) of novels which explore conflict and colonialism (humans and humanoid aliens) within the loose human Sternverein polity.  Conceptually the sequence, which does not have to be read in order, fascinates: the first three novels–Starbrat (1972), Nail Down the Stars (1973), and Under a Calculating Star (1975)–analyze the same conflict from three different perspectives (SF Encyclopedia entry). Continue reading

Updates: Vonda N. McIntyre (August 28, 1948 – April 1, 2019)

Vonda N. McIntyre (August 28, 1948 – April 1, 2019) passed away yesterday from pancreatic cancer. McIntyre, best known for her Hugo and Nebula-winning SF novel Dreamsnake (1978) and her Star Trek Novels and film adaptations (1981-2004) (bibliography), published her first SF story “Breaking Point” in in the February 1970 issue of Venture Science Fiction Magazine. John Clute in SF Encyclopedia describes her two best-known SF novels: Continue reading

Short Story Reviews: Four Stories from New Worlds Science Fiction (April 1964), ed. John Carnell

To mix things up a bit I decided to review four stories in John Carnell’s last issue of New Worlds Science Fiction (April 1964) before he handed over the reins of the dying publication to Michael Moorcock, who would elevate it to New Wave greatness. Other than the James White serial Open Prison, which I plan on reading in book form when I procure a copy, three of the four authors reviewed below owed much of their careers to John Carnell, and would see few stories in print after his departure (see the individual story reviews for details). Only Barrington J. Bayley, writing as P. F. Woods, would see continued publication (and growing popularity) in New Worlds under Moorcock.

Of the stories I recommend reading William Spencer’s rumination on overpopulation and urban life,  “Megapolitan Underground.” The others are worthwhile only for die-hard fans of Carnell’s New Worlds and other editorial projects. Continue reading

Book Review: The Word for World is Forest, Ursula K. Le Guin (1972)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1976 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Won the 1973 Hugo for Best Novella. Nominated for the 1973 Nebula for Best Novella.

In November 1969, word of the My Lai Massacre (March 16, 1968), where American soldiers killed (and raped and mutilated) between 347-504 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians, reached American newspapers. Ronald L. Haeberle’s iconic (and horrifying) photograph of massacred children and adults–superimposed with, “Q. And babies? A. and babies,” the chilling lines from NBC’s interview with massacre participant Paul Meadlo–was transformed into the “most successful poster” opposing the Vietnam War by the Art Workers Coalition. While written (most likely) before news of the massacre appeared in the press, Ursula K.  Le Guin brilliantly channels this general anti-war anger, transposed to an alien local with colonizing humans as villains, in The Word for World is Forest (1972). Continue reading